The 2002 European Championships

Andrew Charniga, Jr.

Do not reproduce or republish in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. © 2001

The 2002 Europeans were held in the same town (Antalya, Turkey) and venue as the 2001 World Championships. So, all of this was déjà vu for those of us who attended the worlds.

Many of the "big guns" were absent for various reasons. Mutlu recently had shoulder surgery. Peschalov had a minor injury but was still going to compete in the Bundasliga finals the following week. Kolecki (POL) was in the hospital with an L5 fracture. The former Worlds Strongest Man Chemerkin (RUS) had decided to pass on this meet and train for the upcoming Russian Grand prix competition.

Nevertheless, there was still some very good lifting, but few tight competitions.

Without Mutlu, Peschalov and Oliashchuk (BLR), the 56 and 62 kg classes were not all that interesting.

The 69 kg featured almost the same line - up as the 2001 worlds, where Galabin Boevski (BUL) came back from sixth place in the snatch to win. However this time, Boevski's main rival Arabacioglu (TUR), although obviously in shape, would apparently choke. He missed his opener in the snatch with 150 and had to repeat this weight on his second. In the meantime, Boevski's opener with 150 was so powerful, the competition for first place was already settled.

The young Turk missed 155 behind him on his third. It is hard to jump forward as much as he does to complete a lift. Trying to lift something so much heavier than your own bodyweight and have to chase it at the same time is difficult to say the least.

Arabacioglu was not nearly as confident and did not have the same intense focus he had in November. This was obvious as the competition progressed. He missed his opener with 180 and had to repeat, then missed 185 on the third.

Boevski clearly had this victory in hand from the get - go. He followed his 150 with smooth successes at 155 and 160 - a technique eye - gasm to the experienced observer.

In the clean and jerk, the Bulgarian made rather easy attempts at 185 and 190. He cleaned a world record 197 on his third but did not try to jerk it. Not bad for someone who had to cut 6 kgs to make weight.

The 77 kg class was the most competitive of the lighter classes. Vanev and Markov (both from BUL) were the clear favorites. A few days out from their competition they did the following in training: Vanev 150 + 195 and 235 (snatch + clean and jerk and front squat); Markov 155 + 190 and 220. Unnecessary misses at 160, caused Vanev to fall far behind after the snatch.

Markov seemed shocked as he missed his second attempt snatch with 167.5, but, with a better effort he made it ok on his third.

Perepetchenov (RUS), who had such a great day at this competition last year, missed his opener with 160. He had a torn callus which was a distraction on this attempt. However, he came back to make this weight and a good 165.

Yilmaz (TUR), who seems to save his last attempt in the snatch and the clean and jerk to use the barbell as a projectile to take out the center referee, made 165. This situation set up the fight in the clean and jerk. Pereptchenov stopped at 195. He inexplicably missed the jerk with 200, then the clean with this weight on his third.

His cleans are a wonder to behold. The power he generates from the floor is awesome. However, despite being in top condition, he was an underachiever once again.

Yilmaz made a 195 after a miss with this weight. Markov stopped after 200 as it was all he needed to win. Vanev opened with a good 195, then lost 207.5 behind, after an easy clean. He made this same 207.5 on his third. Vanev, after a difficult clean (for him), had to take a step forward to get his balance. He then jerked the barbell a little in front and made a great effort to complete the lift and move into second place.

The 94 kg had a good line- up despite the absence of Kolecki and the Greeks. Petrov (RUS) looked good making all three snatches; likewise the Bulgarian Dobrev. However, Pashayev was lucky not to bomb with his opener at 180. He sported an impressive physiquewith large shoulders and arms. But, this is what strong used to look like.

In the clean and jerk, Petrov made an easy opener to seal the win with 215, but his problem with the two jerk misses at 220 seemed to be more mental than physical. Pashayev made only his opener with 215, and, despite great effort, he was unsuccessful with 220 and 222.5.

The 105 kg class featured a close competition with Tsagayev making a clutch 235 clean and jerk to win. Like the 94 kg class, some of the lifters with the most imposing physiques, somehow allowed some over - developed muscles to get in the way of good technique. Ivanovski (RUS) received the down signal for his 190 snatch with about half of both feet extended off the front of the platform. He had to step back in order to lower the weight on to the platform.

Tsgayev (Bul) is a man, who in street clothes, looks more like some guy who would come to your home to snake sludge from your drains than the great world class lifter he is. He stayed close to Godfrid, Ivanovski and Sudas in the snatch then waited for what he needed to win in the clean and jerk. His second attempt with 235 looked like a limit clean. The jerk was forward and too far out of position.

Evidently, the home - town crowd situated to the right of the lifter learned a lesson from the Worlds in November. They had heckled Boevski mercilessly after he missed his snatches. This had the undesirable affect of firing him up for the clean and jerk.

This time the heckling was a little restrained, but, nevertheless, it caught Tsgayev's attention. As he walked off after his miss with 235, he motioned to the audience as if to say, "Hold on, I still have another attempt."

Tsgayev's third with 235 was a repeat of his second, except the effort in the jerk was right on.

This was a particularly enjoyable session to watch, because every time Sudas (TUR) came to the platform the national song of Turkey blared from the sound system. And, his every success was treated to raucous cheering and applause.

The A session for the supers would end with the winner of the B session placing third. Weller had smooth sailing after the Russian Merchtcheriakov hurt his arm and did not continue in the clean and jerk. The Russian Koklyaev made three miserable attempts at 190 in the snatch; so, he too made and early exit.

The new Bulgarian super Milchev made promising attempts at 197.5 in the snatch and 240 in the clean and jerk. In his final workout he casually jumped from 160 kg in the back squat to 250. He is an imposing physical specimen, not someone you would want to bump into in a dark alley.

On the women's side, Natalie Skakun (UKR) 63 kg, was the star. She made six for six including a 135 kg world record in the clean and jerk. She is very fast and explosive. Her excellent technique is almost a sure-fire guarantee of a great future.

Popova (RUS) 69 kg, the former acrobat, missed a world record in the snatch. She stopped after 140 in the clean and jerk. However, her teammate Habirova, the former gymnast, cleaned a world record 144, but had nothing left for the jerk.

In the 75+ class Derya Acikoz (TUR) won the clean and jerk when Agata Wrobel (Pol), missed her third with 157.5. She does not use the rather sloppy start for the snatch and the clean and jerk the other women on the team employ; consequently, she had a much higher success rate, making six for six and winning the gold in the clean and jerk.

Generally, most of the women's classes were not that great. However, the single most memorable lift in the women's competition for this writer was the 120 clean and jerk by the 63 kg Gergana Kirilova (Bul).

She has very poor mobility and is obviously suffering from injuries incurred from years of lifting at this level. She usually power snatches her opener, goes lower on her second, then high pulls her third attempt snatch.

In the clean and jerk she usually does 112.5 - 115, with a high pull for her third attempt.

On this occasion, Gergana jumped from 112.5 to 120 and was unable to secure the weight on her chest due, in no small measure, to a lack of sufficient knee, hip and ankle mobility to clean such a heavy weight.

However, on her third attempt when it looked as though her body would crumple under the weight like a discarded newspaper, Kirilova made this personal record, with shear will. Somehow she managed to secure this weight on her chest even though her elbows descended below the level of her knees in the squat and her back rounded under the strain.

This colossal effort elevated her to third place in the total.

The next morning found her in the training hall. Kirilova began her workout with squats. When she squatted down with an empty bar, one knee and shin moved forward while the other remained frozen. She finally got both knees and ankles to bend in reasonable unison when she reached 60 kg. Kirilova worked up to 145 kg in the squat before doing the lifts.

This woman's grit and determination in making the 120 kg in the clean and jerk the night before, and the hard training session the following day, epitomize the spirit of giving one's all and the tremendous dedication top athletes have for this very difficult sport. Her work ethic is a testimonial to the exceptionally hard work and the obvious acceptance of the physical discomfort that goes along with training for what is arguably the most difficult sport.

The Bulgarian federation lacks the funds to keep team members at the hotel after their competition is over for a brief holiday. So, Kirilova left the next day on a 1000 km bus ride back to Bulgaria.

After her competition was over, Gergana was not asked to come to the competition platform, during a break, to receive an award for showing up. She did not fly to the competition but instead had to endure a long, tedious bus ride. She did not take a day off after her competition but, instead, endured what must have been an uncomfortable, hard training session the very next day.

To those who believe that the reason athletes such as Kirilova do as well as they do because they would purportedly rely on performance enhancing substances should try her performance enhancers - grit, dedication, hard work and the acceptance of great physical discomfort in the effort to improve one's results.

In this context, the Polish women's team deserves special mention. They are clearly the class act of any world or European championships. They train as a team every day, including a light workout the morning of competition day. The team waits until every one is present before they all go into breakfast or dinner as a group.

The team attends the competition of each member of both the men's or women's squad to cheer on their teammates.

The Polish team's dedication to the hard training necessary to compete at the international level is obvious when one sees their hard workouts after their competitions.

The 58 kg lifter Klejnowska, who jerked a European record 123 kg, did front squats with 120 kg for three repetitions, for several sets, two days after her competition.

The next day she clean and jerked 110 kg for two repetitions. The second rep was a real gut buster. That evening Klejnowska, the former dancer, performed a very strenuous, very athletic, "break dance" routine with one of her teammates, on the competition platform during the 10 minute break of the men's session.